Time After Pentecost
volume 14, no. 1

The Germs of G.I.R.M.

Part Sixty-Three: Acolytes and whAco-Lites!

    "Only a priest (or a deacon in a Solemn High Mass in the Traditional Roman Rite) is to purify the vessels after communion. The delegation of this to others, especially the non-ordained, denigrates the meaning of his priestly consecration, consigning to the hands of the others the privilege of touching the sacred species. The removal of the sacred vessels to a side table for purification and cleansing furthers the notion that the priest is not to be concerned with the care of the Eucharistic elements."
Paragraph 187 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

        "The acolyte may have functions of various kinds and several may occur at the same time. It is therefore desirable that these functions be suitably             distributed among several acolytes. But if there is only one acolyte present, that acolyte should perform the more important functions and the rest are         distributed among several ministers."

Comment and Analysis: Words. What is an acolyte? Well, in the Novus Ordo, you see, an acolyte can be an altar server (who can be either a boy or a girl, a man or a woman) or a seminarian who has been "instituted" formally as an acolyte. In the new order of things, men aspiring for the priesthood go through several "offices" prior to their ordination to the transitional diaconate. The first is "candidate," which takes place usually at the end of the seminarianís first year. The second office is that of "reader," which takes place sometime during the second year. It is during a seminarianís third year that he is usually instituted as an "acolyte," which means that he can distribute Holy Communion during Mass. Zads of such acolytes serve at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. However, the word acolyte can also refer to the garden variety altar server. The fluidity of the Novus Ordo is such even the words used to describe "offices" in the Church may mean different things at different times.

    Additionally, just as the word "aco lyte" has different connotations, so are there a variety of functions assigned to an acolyte, whoever happens to be filling that role at any particular point in time. In essence, therefore, acolytes do whatever the priest (or "presider") tells them to do. Nothing is fixed. Their roles vary from parish to parish, from priest to priest, from liturgy committee to liturgy committee, from Mass to Mass, from time to time. This is why there is so much confusion among many young altar servers these days; they simply do not have clearly defined roles (and part of that is because of the fact that the new Mass admits of so many legitimate options and adaptations that it is impossible for there to fixed roles for those who serve as "acolytes."

    This is all in contradistinction to the stability produced by the permanent, immutable nature of the Traditional Latin Mass. Young boys can be trained at a very early age to serve the Traditional Latin Mass. Why? Precisely because the Mass of our fathers is stable. It does not depend upon the celebrant or the time or the parish. Low Mass is the same everywhere. High Mass is the same everywhere. And as there are no options for a priest to use in the Traditional Latin Mass, the responses made by altar boys and the roles they perform are the same in every Mass. That is why a number of quite elderly men have been able in the past twenty years or so to with ease as they had memorized the Mass, which is the same now as it was in the youth, years ago.

    Indeed, the late Ignatius Cardinal Kung, who had been imprisoned by the Red Chinese for over thirty years because he would not renounce his fidelity to the true Church, wrote the entirety of the ordinary of the Traditional Latin Mass from memory in a contraband diary he kept while in prison. His Communist captors kept taking the diary from him and tearing it up. Undaunted, Cardinal Kung just started over again. This happened for years and years. Finally, as his nephew Joseph Kung, the head of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, told us a few months ago, "They [the Communists) just gave up." Cardinal Kung was able to write the Mass from memory because he learned it as a child. This is the very same thing that young boys are doing now when they are being trained, sometimes as young as six or seven, to serve the Traditional Latin Mass.

    Although Paragraph 187 seems innocuous, its fluidity and lack of precision are so very symbolic of all that is wrong with the new Mass. Fluidity and imprecision in the Mass lead to laxity and infidelity in the practice of the Holy Faith in the lives of ordinary Catholics.

Paragraph 188 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

        "In the procession to the altar the acolyte may carry the cross, walking between two ministers with lighted candles. Upon reaching the altar, the acolyte     places the cross near the altar so that it may be used as the altar cross during Mass; otherwise, he places it in a dignified place."

Comment and Analysis: Who is an "acolyte" and who is a "minister?" G.I.R.M. does not tell us. Perhaps one is supposed to intuit the difference. Traditionally, the sub-deacon or altar boy carried a processional cross in a High Mass, which is placed in a holder near the altar (there being a cross present on the altar before Mass). And in the Mass of tradition, the altar boy "takes his place" at the side at the priest as he blesses the congregation with holy water during the Asperges me (or Vidi Aquam during Paschaltide the priest. He assists him as he vests for Mass after that blessing, taking his place on his knees at his side as the Mass of the Catechumens begins with the Prayers at the foot of the Altar. His "place in the sanctuary" is with the priest. Indeed, the altar boy is the extension of the hands of the priest, which is one of the reasons he must be a boy, not a girl.

Paragraph 188 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

        "Throughout the celebration it belongs to the acolyte to go to the priest or the deacon, whenever necessary, in order to present the book to them and to     assist them in any other way required. Thus it is appropriate that, if possible, acolytes have a place from which they can conveniently carry out their     ministry both at the chair and at the altar."

Comment and Analysis: Altar boys sit on either side of a priest during the Traditional Latin Mass when he, the priest, sits down during High Mass while the choir is singing the Gloria and the Credo after he has recited them himself. They sit when the priest (or the transitional deacon) is preaching. At all other times, however, they have fixed roles at the altar. As the priest does not "preside" from a chair, he reads from the Missal, which is placed either on the Epistle or the Gospel side of the altar. It is not "held" by the altar server (or subdeacon or deacon) as is the case in the new Mass. The rearrangement of the rubrics of the Mass, however, means a rearrangement of the furniture in the sanctuary, a rearrangement that is Protestant and egalitarian of its nature.

Paragraph 190 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

        "After the general intercessions, when no deacon is present, the acolyte places the corporal, purificator, and Sacramentary on the altar, while the priest     remains at the chair. Then, if necessary, the acolyte assists the priest in receiving the gifts from the people and may bring the bread and wine to the altar     and hand them to the priest. If incense is used, the acolyte gives the censer to the priest and assists him in incensing the gifts, the cross and the altar.         Then he incenses and priest and the people."

Comment and Analysis: I have commented on the "general intercessions" ad nauseum. In the Mass of tradition, the priest says the Offertory prayer after the completion of the Credo (when its recitation is mandated) or after the Gospel (in a Low Mass without a sermon) or after the sermon. He then begins the Offertory in what is called the Mass of the Faithful (what is now called "The Liturgy of the Eucharist"). The altar boy assists the priest by bringing him the water and wine to be poured into the chalice, as well as when bringing him the water and lavabo dish and cloth for the washing and drying of his fingers at the Lavabo. The priest is not "in the chair" at this time. Although the procedures outlined in this paragraph for the incensing of the priest and the people are identical to what we find in High Mass in the Mass of tradition, the fact that women may serve at the altar in the new Mass adds a significant departure from tradition, one that carries with it a theology that believes the distinctions between the sexes are not important in the context of the Mass. They are.

Paragraph 191 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

        "A formally instituted acolyte may, if necessary, assist the priest as an extraordinary minister in giving communion to the people. If communion is given         under both kinds, in the absence of a deacon, the acolyte administers the chalice to the communicants or holds the chalice when communion is given by     intinction."

Comment and Analysis: Ah, G.I.R.M. makes reference here to a formally instituted acolyte.It is presumed, perhaps erroneously, that a former instituted acolyte is a seminarian. In any event, a priest may deputize anyone in the case of a genuine emergency to distribute Holy Communion, as was the case during World Wars I and II, for example. However, a priest and a deacon are the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Only the hands of the ordained are meant to touch the Word made Flesh under the appearance of the elements of this earth. Giving permission on a regular basis to the non-ordained to do so blurs the distinction between the priesthood of the ordained priest and that of every baptized Catholic. And by permitting Communion under both Kinds, which is discussed much more fully about 100 paragraphs from now, the architects of the new Mass are furthering the belief that there is something missing if the people do not participate in this practice in the new Mass. There are solid theological and pastoral reasons why the Roman Rite forbade Communion under both kinds, even by intinction, for centuries until the advent of the liturgical revolution. The restoration of this practice, abolished precisely because it led to abuses and sacrileges, has resulted in all manner of sacrileges, no less a total rejection of the fact that it is the priest alone who communicates from the chalice, thereby completing the sacrifice.

Paragraph 192 of G.I.RM. reads as follows:

        "Likewise, a formally instituted acolyte helps the priest or deacon to cleanse and arrange the vessels after communion. In the absence of a deacon, the     acolyte carries the sacred vessels to the side table and purifies, wipes and arranges them in the customary manner."

Comment and Analysis: Only a priest (or a deacon in a Solemn High Mass in the Traditional Roman Rite) is to purify the vessels after communion. The delegation of this to others, especially the non-ordained, denigrates the meaning of his priestly consecration, consigning to the hands of the others the privilege of touching the sacred species. The removal of the sacred vessels to a side table for purification and cleansing furthers the notion that the priest is not to be concerned with the care of the Eucharistic elements. Indeed, it is his job to sit down while others handle the One to Whom he has been espoused by means of his priestly ordination. As we know, much sacrilege occurs in the new Mass at this juncture. For if there is such a rush to remove Our Lord to the side, why should there be care in the handling of what remains of Holy Communion?

    A priest who has reviewed this manuscript asks some very pertinent questions: "An Ďinstitutedí acolyte, a Ďregularí acolyte or an altar server, may purify the sacred vessels after Holy Communion? Which is it?

Paragraph 193 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

        "After the celebration of Mass, the acolyte and other ministers return in procession to the sacristy with the deacon and the priest in the same way and in     the same order in which they entered."

Comment and Analysis: What happens to the processional cross in the recessional? Well, like so much else in G.I.R.M., much of the details are left to the imagination. The details arenít really that important. Alas, as has been proved that there is no regard for traditional reverence and solemnity in the celebration of the Mass, a lack of specificity about the details of a recessional means that the innovators and revolutionaries are perfectly free to do as they pleasure. After all, if Aztec tribal rituals can be included in the Mass of canonization of Saint Juan Diego, then why canít local liturgy committees and "presiders" do as they please in their own parishes during the processional and recessional?

Paragraph 194 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

        "In the procession to the altar, when no deacon is present, the reader, wearing the appropriate vesture, may carry the Book of the Gospels elevated         slightly. In that case, he walks in front of the priest, otherwise with the other ministers."

Comment and Analysis: This is a complete novelty of the Novus Ordo. While the 1962 Missal promulgated by Pope John XXIII permitted the option of a "commentator" to read the epistle and the Gospel lesson in the vernacular while the priest recited them in Latin at the altar, the "commentator" was not considered a "minister." In the Traditional Latin Mass, the priest, the alter Christus, reads the epistle and the Gospel in Latin at the altar and then in the vernacular (outside of Mass, as I have pointed out in an earlier installment of this series) from the pulpit during Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. It is usually the case that the readings are not done in the vernacular during ordinary weekday Masses (the assumption being that those who attend daily Mass have their own hand missals). Nevertheless, the concept of a "reader" who processes with the "presider" and "other ministers" results in yet another diminishing of the role of the sacerdos, the priest. This diminishing of the role of the priest is accomplished not only by the presence of a reader but by the fact that he (or she) may wear clerical attire, signifying a sort of equality with the ordained priest.

    Additionally, the Novus Ordoís demand for inculturation of the liturgy results in the relativizing of what is an "appropriate vesture." Might the feathers worn by the Aztec dancers at the canonization of St. Juan Diego at the modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City be considered "appropriate vesture." Might half-naked natives from Africa or Australia or New Zealand be considered dressed appropriately in their birthday suits as they proclaim the Word of God in Holy Mass? Well, whether dress in street clothes or some sort of clerical vestments or native attire, no lay man served in this capacity, no less carried the Book of the Gospels. All of this was introduced in the name of "active participation." What it is in actuality, however, is Protestantism.

    A priest who has served as a review of this manuscript notes, "The modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, which was designed by an atheist, looks like a Klingon starship."

Paragraph 195 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

        "Upon reaching the altar, he makes a profound bow with the others. If he is carrying the Book of the Gospels, he goes to the altar and places the Book     of the Gospels on it. Then, he takes up his position in the sanctuary with the other ministers."

Comment and Analysis: Once again, GIRM assumes that the normative place for the tabernacle is not in the center of the sanctuary. Thus, all the "ministers" who approach the sanctuary bow rather than genuflect. Lost in all of this is the simple fact that there is no need for reader. This is not part of Catholic tradition whatsoever. This is all a fabricated effort to replicate the Protestant worship service. The sanctuary is a sanctuary for a reason. It has now become an avenue of traffic which detracts from the dignity of the priesthood and the solemnity of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    A diocesan priest who has been known to celebrate Mass facing the altar says: "Iíve discovered that if I say the Mass facing the altar no one dares to approach the altar; but when facing the people, thereís a traffic jam around the altar."

    Paragraph 196 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

        "At the ambo the reader proclaims the readings that precede the gospel reading. It there is no psalmist, the reader may also sing or recite the                          responsorial psalm after the first reading."

Comment and Analysis: This is repetitive of Paragraphs 58-59 of G.I.R.M. There is no such thing as an "ambo" in the liturgical tradition of the Roman Rite. The priest recited the Gradual and Lesser Alleluia (the Gradual and Greater Alleluia in Paschaltide; the Tract in Lent) during Low Mass, reciting them during High Mass while the schola sang them. The schola was out of sight. We did not have Mitch Miller or Debbie Boone leading us in song. There is a reason for this: the primacy of the priest and the mysterium tremendum that is meant to be produced by the Mass. The scholaís being out of sight reminds us of heavenly glories that we are aspiring to but have not yet attained. The "down to earth" nature of the new liturgy is very much reflective of its enshrinement of everything that is earthbound and topical, not heavenly and eternal.

Paragraphs 197 and 198 of G.I.R.M. read as follows:

    197:     "After the priest gives the introduction to the general intercessions, the reader may announce the intentions from the ambo when no deacon is                      present."    

    198:    "If there is no opening liturgical song or communion song and the antiphons in the Missal are not said by the faithful, the reader may recite them at         the appropriate time."

Comment and Analysis: Again, this is repetitive of earlier paragraphs in G.I.R.M. Suffice it to say at this juncture, however, that the "reader" serves the role of an Alistair Cooke or Ed McMahon, providing running commentaries or making his presence known at times that should be reserved either for the preparation for the reception of Holy Communion or the making of a good Thanksgiving after wards. And it is interesting to note also that the spirit of egalitarianism engendered by the mania for the vocal participation of the faithful in Mass has resulted in some members of a congregation competing with each other, especially during Daily Mass, to see who will be the first among them to shout out the responsorial psalm or what is now called the Communion Antiphon. Some people actually get angry when they are beaten to the punch by another congregant. As my dear wife says, "It kind of makes you feel as though you are watching Jeopardy!"

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

For past installments of G.I.R.M. Warfare in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives

Time After Epiphany
volume 14, no. 1
The Germs of G.I.R.M.

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